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Visit Bruges - with bells on!

 

Bruges is one of the most popular places for overseas visitors in Belgium, writes Martin Banks. The Venice-style canals, olde-worlde charm coupled with historic monuments such as its Belfry and Markt all make for a wonderful day out.

But when it comes to visitor attractions, ‘sound art’ is the city’s new (and ultra modern) kid on the block.

 

Odd though it may seem, the Sound Factory in Bruges really is packing them in.

Situated in the Concertgebuow’s lantern tower between the Markt and the railway station, the Sound Factory is an interactive room for ‘sound art’, featuring 21 carillon bells which used to hang in the Bruges Belfry.

While having a good old clout on the bells you can also admire what is a great view right across the city’s landscape.

The factory includes other innovative sound art creations such as a mushroom-shaped installation that responds differently to each touch. It holds an enormous database of sounds, including percussion, brass instruments and spacey electronic noises. Cool!

Other than the Sound Factory, there’s so much to do and see in this city it would be a shame not to stay at least one night.

If you do, then one good place to lay your head is Martin’s Relais Hotel, which comprises four wonderfully-restored old merchant’s houses and is an exquisite excursion into the past.

Each of the 44 huge and luminous rooms and suites has a great view and guarantees a stay full of character in surroundings steeped in history.

The bedrooms are divided into three categories (‘charming, great and exceptional’) and each is unique, with 16 of them offering a view over the canal.

This ‘Oud Huis Amsterdam’ hotel has five meeting rooms for five-45 people and, as such, is also a wonderful location for exceptional seminars.

The 17th century townhouse, close to Martin’s Brugge and Martin’s Orangerie,  is the 11th in the Martin’s chain (it joined in July 2009) which also has hotels in

Brussels and Genval.

Booking breakfast online saves €5 per person, per day, with the charge dropping from €20 to €15.

When it comes to eating out in Bruges, one excellent option is De Bottelier.

If, as the saying goes, you are a clock-watcher, then this is the place for you.

As well as serving up delicious food, this restaurant offers something different: it is absolutely crammed full of clocks.

Owner Hans Golsteyn has a thing about time and has been collecting clocks since 2000. He now has some 1,300 time machines in this comfy eatery.

Even if you’re not staying in Bruges, it’s well worth a relatively easy excursion from Brussels, mostly for the quality of the food, lovingly prepared by Hans’

wife Hilde, who’s clearly highly talented in the kitchen.

Starters include camembert, curry soup and snails while mains dishes comprise fish kebab, salmon, lamb and duck and some delicious steaks. Veggies are catered for too. Tourists are regulars here with many telling Hans “it’s like coming home” when they visit.

The couple have been running the place for 22 years now but it is as popular as ever. It is not difficult to see why.

Much the same could be said of a trip to Bruges, the so-called Venice of the North. Fashions may change but this Flemish city remains, and is likely to remain, one of the best things about Belgium.

 

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